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Holidaymakers arriving in England from seven Greek islands will be forced to self-isolate under a new “regional” approach to travel corridors, Grant Shapps has announced.
The new system will give ministers the power to impose quarantine restrictions on certain islands within a country, with the measures set to impact travellers returning from seven Greek islands later this week.
Speaking to MPs on Monday, Mr Shapps said “enhanced data” allowed the government to pinpoint areas with an increased risk of infection, while leaving the rest of the country exempt.
Holidaymakers returning from Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos after 4am on Wednesday will be asked to self-isolate for 14-days under the new scheme.
The moves comes after Mr Shapps admitted the rules had become “confusing” after Scotland and Wales introduced restrictions on Portugal and parts of Greece last week, while England and Northern Ireland did not.
On Thursday, Welsh health secretary Vaughn Gething said the new rules for arrivals from mainland Portugal and six Greek islands followed “very clear advice” from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), which provides risk assessments for foreign countries.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also introduced similar restrictions on Portugal, having already added Greece to the Scottish quarantine list earlier in the week.
Mr Shapps had accused Scotland of “jumping the gun” by introducing the Greek quarantine measures, and suggested Mr Gethins had based his decision on incorrect information because he “was at a different meeting”.
But the split had prompted calls from Labour for an urgent review into the policy, as well as the release of the full Joint Biosecurity Centre data which was provided to Mr Shapps.
Speaking to PoliticsHome ahead of the Commons statement, Mr McMahon said: “We’re still yet to see the scientific evidence for the Government’s decision making.
“People are rightly confused about the process, and how the UK Government came to a different decision from Scotland and Wales and give confidence they aren’t simply making it up as they go along.”
The Labour shadow minister also called on the government to examine options for a “robust” testing programme in airports in an effort to reduce the two-week self-isolation period.
“After the mess we’ve seen it is vital that the government undertakes a review into quarantine policy, to report as soon as possible,” he added.
“It should include outlining options for a robust testing regime in airports, and related follow up tests, that could help to safely minimise the need for 14-day quarantine.”
The comments come after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he hoped to introduce testing for those arriving in the UK “as soon as it is practical” following warnings from the UK’s 20 largest airports that the blanket quarantine policy was causing “irreperable damage” to the industry.
Mr Hancock told LBC on Monday that ministers were looking at the possibility of introducing tests at the eight day mark, with those testing negative allowed to stop self-isolating.
He added: “We are working to try to find a way to allow for the quarantine to be reduced, but done in a way that also keeps people safe.”
Responding to the comments, a government spokesperson said: “We are taking clear and decisive action to slow the spread of the virus and save lives.
“We keep the data for all countries and territories under constant review, and if the public health risk of people returning from a particular country without self-isolating becomes too high we will not hestitate to remove countries from the travel corridors exemptions list.
They added: “Work is ongoing with clinicians, the devolved administrations and the travel industry to consider if and how testing could be used in the future to reduce the self-isolation period.
“Any potential change to the testing for arrivals would need to be robust in minimising the chance that positive cases are missed.”
Tony Chung: Hong Kong activist detained near US embassy charged
Hong Kong teen activist Tony Chung has been charged under a new national security law, just days after he was detained outside the US consulate.
Mr Chung, 19, had reportedly planned to enter the consulate and claim asylum.
The activist faces the possibility of life in prison if found guilty of secession, conspiracy to publish seditious content and money laundering.
Mr Chung, the second person to be charged under the law, was denied bail by the court.
The controversial law was imposed by China on Hong Kong in June, making it easier to punish protesters and reducing the city’s autonomy.
What do we know about his detention?
According to the South China Morning Post, Mr Chung was detained on Tuesday morning at a coffee shop opposite the US consulate.
UK-based activist group Friends of Hong Kong said he had planned to enter and claim asylum. Instead, footage taken from near the consulate showed him being carried away by plain-clothes police.
Mr Chung, who was a former member of pro-independence group Studentlocalism, said activists had not given up fighting.
“At the right moment, we will come out to protest again,” he told BBC Chinese in a recent interview.
“Yes we lose at this moment. But the road to democracy is always long.”
He will remain in custody until his next court appearance on 7 January next year.
What is Hong Kong’s new security law?
Hong Kong’s national security law was imposed by Beijing in June after months of huge pro-democracy protests last year against an extradition bill.
The new law makes secession, subversion of the central government, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces punishable by up to life in prison.
In July, several were arrested under the new powers, including a man carrying a “Hong Kong Independence” flag.
The law gives Beijing extensive powers it has never had before to shape life in the territory.
Critics say it effectively puts an end to the freedoms guaranteed by Beijing for 50 years after British rule ended in Hong Kong in 1997, but China says it will return stability to the city.
After the passing of the security law, the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would offer up to three million Hong Kong residents a chance to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship.
China has condemned this, saying it would take countermeasures against the UK should it grant residency to Hong Kong residents.
AOC: ‘I don’t know if I’m really going to be staying in the House forever’
President Donald Trump has taken particular pleasure in warning that Ocasio-Cortez poses a threat to Schumer, while describing prominent Democratic leaders including presidential nominee Joe Biden as beholden to her more liberal agenda.
Ocasio-Cortez is also viewed as one of the likeliest inheritors of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ progressive coalition if she were to run for president. The congresswoman, who endorsed Sanders in the 2020 White House race, turned 31 earlier this month and would meet the constitutional presidential age requirement of 35 by November 2024.
Another possibility is Ocasio-Cortez joining a potential Biden administration in some capacity. She was tapped in May to serve as a co-chair of the Biden-Sanders joint task force on climate change — one of six working groups meant to advise the Biden campaign on policy.
But Ocasio-Cortez told Vanity Fair she did not “want to aspire to a quote-unquote higher position just for the sake of that title or just for the sake of having a different or higher position.”
“I truly make an assessment to see if I can be more effective,” she said. “And so, you know, I don’t know if I could necessarily be more effective in an administration, but, for me that’s always what the question comes down to.”
Covid: Macron promises solidarity for new French lockdown
Schools and universities will remain open and officer workers will stay home as President Emmanuel Macron places France into lockdown for the whole of November.
There will also be mandatory rapid Covid-19 testing for all international arrivals at the country’s ports and airports to ensure the virus is not brought in from other territories.
The president announced the new measures in a national address, pledging solidarity with French citizens adding “we will all get there together”.
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